“I’m retired!” That’s what my friend Ray said to me on his 31st birthday.
To better understand this comment, let me describe Ray to you. Ray’s family came from a poor farming community in Asia. They had no money when they came to the US, a poor understanding of English and no real education. His father worked as a school janitor for many years, slowly saving up money until he could buy a home. Then he bought another home, and another, and another… In his 50′s, Ray’s father retired on income from his school pension and from the dozen or so properties he owned and rented out. He spends most of his days travelling or enjoying life with his extended family.
All of this was done through a lot of hard work and determination with no “luck” involved. Ray’s dad worked long hours and saved up all his money for this goal. The family rarely traveled, never “indulged” in luxuries and the kids were expected to pay their own way through college. However, it was also a very happy family. Aunts and uncles would stop by all the time, large family dinners were the norm and both parents were very involved with their kids and their community.
I still remember going over to Ray’s house on the evening after Thanksgiving. Before she passed away, his mother would always save leftovers for us. We would all show up around midnight and feast on leftover turkey, stuffing, corn and pies! It was a warm and happy house, even if they didn’t have the latest big screen TV. I think Ray saw all this and, being the competitive guy he is, decided he would do the same, only faster.
So he worked and worked and worked. Ray worked at three different jobs for most of his life. He put himself through college by working at a large department store and working his way up to management. After graduating with an accounting degree he added (I say added because he didn’t quite his retail job to do this) a job at a local bank. Finally, during tax season, he started a tax preparation business. In other words, he worked three jobs for most of his 20′s. He lived modestly and invested his income in real estate, as his dad did.
At the age of 31, Ray decided he was done. He had enough income generating properties to live on and would continue his 4 months a year job as a tax preparer. Otherwise, he was retired!
But Why Now?
I asked him back then, “why retire now?” Why not work a bit more and retire to a more comfortable lifestyle? After all, his current income wasn’t that much. Real estate sounds nice but the actual cash flow you get from it is minimal and tax preparation is no gold mine either. I wondered why he didn’t work a few more years, make even more money and retire to a more comfortable lifestyle.
The Parable Of The Fisherman
Ray replied with a story his father told him about the fisherman and the businessman. It goes something like this:
A business man goes on vacation to a pretty beach resort. He hires a local captain to take him fishing. On their fishing trip the business man observes just how good this captain is. He knows all the fishing spots, he’s great with his crew, he understand ocean conditions perfectly and he’s really good at finding the fish. And yet, as good as he is, the captain doesn’t have much luxury in his life. He drives an old beat up car, lives in a small home and rarely eats something other than the fish he catches.
So he asked the captain, ” what do you do every day?”
The captain answered “well, I wake up at 10am or so, spend some time with the kids and the wife. Then I go fishing for a few hours, come back at 5pm, have a few beers at the pub with my good friends and go back home to have a quiet evening with my wife and kids.”
The business man is incredulous “why are you wasting your potential?” he says. ”you’re so good, if you worked a little harder you could make a lot more money. Just go fishing 8 hours a day instead of 4, save your money and in a couple of years you’ll have enough money to invest in another boat. Then you spend most of your time managing people until you can buy a third and a fourth and a fifth boat and so on. In 15 years, you can be a fishing FLEET captain and a millionaire.”
“And what would I do then?” asked the captain.
The business man answered “well, then you can rest, wake up late, spend time with the wife and kids and have beers with your friends at the pub!”
The businessman was trying to tell the captain to work hard so he could have his dream life but the captain already had it. This is what my friend Ray realized early on. He didn’t want a fancy life, a huge house or the latest big screen TV. He outlined his needs as follows:
- The only luxury I want is a nice car. I travel around a lot for business and to see my family and I spend a lot of time in my car. I want it to be comfortable and fun to drive.
- I want to go back to my family home in Asia once a year.
- I want to go to Hawaii twice a year to surf and scuba dive.
- Otherwise, I just want to hang out with friends.
None of these is expensive, except for Hawaii, which Ray solved by buying a rental property there and keeping one room available for him to crash at when he needed it. His total yearly expenses are well under 40k, which he easily makes through rental income and tax preparation.
In other words, Ray is the perfect example of someone living a purposeful life. He figured out early on what he wanted out of life, invested a lot of work in getting it and then stopped. Why invest more time in getting something you don’t need? Why work harder for more money when it won’t make you happier?
This is the purpose of my life coaching and of this site. To help you live a purposeful life. To help you realize what you want out of life, make a plan for getting it and then be happy with what you have. That last part is where the name Equally Happy comes from by the way. It’s realizing that you don’t need a fancy house or a corporate jet to be happy. You can be equally happy with a Honda Accord and an apartment in the city if that’s what you really want out of life.
By the way, as with all things, what we want is subject to change as we grow older. Ray too has changed. He recently went back to work because he realized he now wants a long term relationship with someone and possibly kids. In order to do this, he needs a higher income. So off he went again, hard at work achieving his goals. Once again, living a purposeful life.